"This is not, and never will be, about wholesale spying on New Zealanders," Key told parliament, adding "there are threats our government needs to protect New Zealanders from, those threats are real and ever-present and we underestimate them at our peril."
The push to change the law came after it emerged last year that the GCSB illegally spied on MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom before armed police raided his Auckland mansion as part of a US-led probe into online piracy.
Critics have questioned Key's commitment to privacy, pointing out that when a report on GCSB spying was leaked to a journalist earlier this year, he ordered an investigation which tracked the reporter's movements and seized her emails and telephone records without her permission.
In June, Anonymous attacked Prime Minister Key's website in protest of the plans to allow the country's intelligence agency to spy on local residents.
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